By Leo Babauta
It happens to all of us: you are going strong with a project, with learning something new, with a new habit or two … and things go sideways. You get derailed.
This is a critical junction. If you let yourself quit, all your time and effort up until now has been for naught. If you can get back on track, things can be great again.
Most people don’t know how to get back on track, and so fail repeatedly. Today I’m going to share a simple method that works for me.
Recently, I’ve had to use the method because of a few difficulties:
- A learning project got sidetracked. For a couple months, I’ve been focused on learning something new, but I got discouraged because a) my learning efforts got interrupted by travel, which was a bummer, and b) I had a couple of failures that made me feel like quitting. As of a couple of days ago, I was on the brink of quitting altogether.
- My eating habits have been crap lately. Well, not complete crap, but crappy enough that I’ve felt a bit unhealthy. And I haven’t been able to get it back on track.
- My focus hasn’t been what it could be lately. In recent months, I was super focused on my mission, on mindfulness and meditation and helping others. In the last month, that focus hasn’t been there, for a variety of reasons. I haven’t given up, but have definitely been sidetracked.
Sounds discouraging, right? But not to fear, getting back on track is actually fairly simple.
The Key Principle
Here’s the key idea to understand: getting off track and getting back on track is all about mood.
When we get off track, it’s because things that affect our mood as it relates to the project or habit. For example:
- We get interrupted because of travel, illness, visitors, crises, etc. This interruption makes us feel discouraged. It’s not the interruption that is the obstacle, it’s the feeling of discouragement that gets in the way.
- We get tired because of travel, illness, a lack of sleep, etc. … and the tiredness makes us feel unmotivated towards our project or habit. Tiredness is a huge obstacle, because when you’re tired, you don’t feel motivated, your mood isn’t as good, and you just want to comfort yourself with distractions and food (among other things).
- When things aren’t going well, we can get very discouraged — we’re not losing weight on our diet, exercise is harder than we fantasized about, language learning is very difficult, etc.
- When things get busy in our lives, we often have to skip the habit, which can make us feel bad about ourselves.
When our mood, as it relates to the project or habit, is bad … we often feel like quitting, and don’t even want to think about the problem. We avoid thinking about it, turn away from it, and seek other comforts.
So how do you get back on track? Here’s the method I use.
- Admit there’s a problem, and ask a key question. We often want to ignore the problem, not even think about it. But this only encourages quitting, and doesn’t help the problem. All we have to do is simply say, “I’m feeling bad about this. I’m discouraged and thinking about quitting.” Then we can ask ourselves, “Do I really want to quit, or is there a good reason to get back on track?”
- Take one small, easy step. If you have good reason to get back on track, don’t think about the entire project of getting back on track. That’s too much, and can be overwhelming, which means we’ll never start. Instead, just think of one thing you can do. For example, if you’ve fallen off the meditation habit … can you meditate for 30 seconds right now? 10 seconds? If you stopped listening to your language tapes, can you just do 2 minutes of the tapes today? If you stopped doing yoga or bodyweight exercises, can you just do a few minutes right now? It might seem ridiculously easy, but that’s exactly what you need to do. Something tiny, anything. This is the key step, so don’t take it lightly.
- Focus on getting any kind of victories. If you do 30 seconds, 2 minutes, whatever … you’ve had success! This is a victory, and a victory changes your mood. If you’ve been trying to play chess and you’ve been losing and become very discouraged, then focus on doing some tactics training for one minute. That’s a victory! What other kinds of victories can you get? Look for anything: just doing another minute later today or tomorrow morning, doing a little practice on your commute, reading a little about the topic online, anything you can do. Nurture your mood — victories change your mood. Defeats and tiredness can bring it down. So see what you can do to lift your mood up, including talking to someone else about it or making it more social, playing some good upbeat music to make it fun, making some tea or lighting some candles to make it more enjoyable, etc.
- Build long-term strength with small steps. If you build little victories, take small steps, and nurture your mood as in the previous steps … you’ll start to have a more solid habit or motivation for your project. After awhile, you become more robust, so that a little defeat won’t really matter too much. You have room for some tiredness now and then. You’ll be strong and won’t need to worry about all of the little mood changes. But it takes a bunch of small steps and victories to get there. So focus on one small step, one victory, at a time. Don’t worry about the long term, just focus on the short term. And the long-term strength will come.
This isn’t a difficult method — anyone can do it. All it takes is a small admission of struggle, a willingness to ask whether you want to get back on track, and a focus on small steps and victories. That’s doable, and awesome.
On August 22 I will launch my Patreon. I’m so excited about it.
Patreon is a nifty place where folks like us can support creators we like
I’m excited about how it can be a central platform, bringing together stuff I do at Thingswithout.com, lizargall.com and in other places. I’ll do logistical updates here, but Patreon will be a fun place to share cool stuff, creative stuff and create a great space for you to give feedback.
One of the rarest spiders on earth has bred at Bristol Zoo Gardens in a world first.
Over 1,000 tiny Desertas Wolf Spiderlings have hatched in the Zoo’s Bug World. So valuable are the babies, some have even been hand-reared by dedicated keepers from tiny eggs.
The hatchings are a huge boost for the species, which is only found in one valley on one of the Desertas Islands, near Madeira, Portugal. There is thought to be a single population of just 4,000 adult spiders left in the wild – an alarmingly small number for an entire invertebrate species.
It is hoped that some of the spiderlings can be returned to their native island in the future to boost dwindling numbers in the wild.
Desertas Wolf Spiders (Hogna ingens) are classified as “Critically Endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species but are not protected by any specific legislation.
The baby spiders are just 4mm in diameter but grow to be huge, impressive-looking black and white adults up to 12cm in size with a body size of 4cm. They are under threat from habitat loss, due to invasive grass binding the soil where they burrow and blocking their natural shelters.
Bristol Zoo has joined forces with Instituto das Florestas e Conservação de Natureza (IFCN) and the IUCN to develop a conservation strategy to protect the species in an effort to prevent it becoming extinct.
As part of the vital conservation effort, Bristol Zoo’s Curator of Invertebrates, Mark Bushell, travelled to Desertas Grande last year with Zoo vet Richard Saunders and collected 25 Desertas Wolf Spiders to be brought back to the Zoo to breed as a ‘safety net’ population.
The effort has been a great success, as Mark explains: “Because this was the first time this species had ever been taken into captivity to breed, it was a steep learning curve. After some of the female spiders were mated, it was an anxious wait to see if they would produce egg sacs. We were thrilled when they did, and to see the tiny spiderlings emerge was fantastic – a real career highlight.”
Such was the keepers’ dedication, that when one of the female’s egg sac broke, eggs were carefully transferred into a miniature incubator for rearing. Once the eggs hatched, they were put into separate containers with sterilized soil, kept in quarantine and individually fed with fruit flies.
Bristol Zoo now plans to send hundreds of the tiny spiderlings to other Zoos in the UK and Europe to set up further breeding groups as part of a collaborative conservation programme for the species.
Mark added: “Establishing the world’s first captive breeding programme for this species is a fantastic step towards protecting it for the future. It is a beautiful and impressive creature, but its natural habitat is being altered by invasive plants. There are simply not enough rocky and sandy areas of habitat left for the spiders to burrow and hide in. The result is a deadly game of musical chairs, whereby the spiders are competing for fewer and fewer burrows.”
Mark added: “In addition to the loss of habitat, one single catastrophic event could wipe out the species entirely. Now we have successfully created a ‘safety net’ population here at Bristol Zoo to help safeguard this impressive creature for the future.”
In future it is also hoped that Bristol Zoo’s team of horticulture experts can visit Desertas Grande to work with park rangers to control the invasive grass, which is destroying the spiders’ habitats and help restore the original landscape.
Bristol Zoo Gardens is a conservation and education charity and relies on the generous support of the public, not only to fund its important work in the zoo but also its vital conservation and research projects spanning five continents.
For more information about visiting Bristol Zoo Gardens, visit their website at www.bristolzoo.org.uk .
Date: August 17, 2017
Today we celebrate Indonesia’s Independence Day, known locally as Hari Kemerdekaan.
In the country’s capital of Jakarta and other large cities throughout the archipelago, this historically significant day is celebrated with elaborate parades including marching bands and floats festooned with Indonesia’s red-and-white flag. Flag-raising ceremonies also dominate the day, while performers sing the national anthem of Indonesia. Friends and families bond over activities like sack racing and climbing palm trees (panjat pinang) and show their culinary chops in cooking competitions featuring dishes from a myriad of cultures.
Using whimsical figures and rich colors and patterns, today’s Doodle by guest artist Aditya Pratama encapsulates the spirit of “unity in diversity” (Bhinneka Tunggal Ika) the national motto of Indonesia (derived from a 14th-century Javanese poem) that defines the joy of this landmark day.
Katy and Jerry, who adopted Thurston (Saucer) and Norma (Binka) Easterbrook are very dear friends of ours, so we get to their kitties often. I've shared updates Saucer and Binka before, and many of you have commented on their sleek, lovely coats. They are beauties, for sure, and two of the shiniest cats I've ever seen!
They're sweet, too, and it is always a pleasure getting to spend a little time with them. Whenever we do, there's always a game of fetch with Binka, and when his curiosity gets the best of him, Saucer will always appear and share his awesome belly.
Here's our update from Katy:
Our sweet kitties celebrated their 6th birthday, and every day we enjoy their company. Binka is curious, outgoing, motherly, slightly bossy and sweet. She nearly always comes right away when called and knows exactly when we are talking about her, chiming right into the conversation with well-placed meows. We call her B for short, Queen B, and occasionally Beagle, because she still loves to fetch. She loves to exercise with us in the mornings and meets us on our yoga mats with her ball. I often think of her as a spiritual teacher because she is energetic, physical and always up for an adventure yet when you pick her up she has no tension or stress in her body. I aspire to be more like Binka...
Saucer is a special boy who is a very handsome, sensitive guy who is quite a lover in private and is also a fierce hunter. Though Binka seems more curious on the surface, Saucer is the one who dominates in the true hunt on the occasions that mouse or shrew has gotten into the house in the winter. We also affectionately call him Saucy Boy, Gentle Boy, and Tiger Kitty, and my special name for him is the Duke of Saucer because of his extra smattering of chin whiskers which give him a rather regal look. He is quite a lounger and we have a special ritual when we get home at night to go into the bedroom for some private love with just him. He likes to climb onto our backs and he gives the best body hugs when we pick him up, as he curls around the back of our necks with his head. They are indoor cats except during summer when we have supervised outings on our patio. They have been amazing about learning and mostly sticking to their boundaries and I'm always grateful and impressed with how well they mind. We love spending time on the patio. This photo really perfectly captures them. I call it "Balance B and the Spider Hunter." Binka (who has also earned the nickname Balance B, for her propensity for balancing on thin railings watches intently as Saucer fearlessly goes in to reach for a spider.)
We love our kitties and are forever grateful to have found them through the IBKC.
"We don't allow the cats on the tables or counters....except we realized they don't seem to have gotten the memo."
Thank you for sharing your kitties with us today, Katy! Give 'em some love from all of us!
Pictured above are Sidney and Mose Fishkin on their adoption day.
We were so happy when Tiffany, Bill, and Vivian adopted the precious Fishking twins -- we knew they would offer a wonderful life to these kittens. About a week after they left our nest, Mose gave them a scare with a health crisis. We felt so bad they had to go through something like this out of the gates but were so grateful that Mose was in their capable hands. Thankfully they caught it early, acted fast, and got him healthy.
Here's the story and an update from Tiffany.
Shortly after we adopted the brothers, Mose fell ill and was diagnosed with pneumonia. We faithfully gave him nebulizer and shower-steam treatments, and he put up with them well, sometimes even purring through the steam. Meanwhile, Sidney would swat the nebulizer tube and had a deep distrust of the shower. He wanted to liberate his brother from the humans and their torturous contraption. I started calling Sidney "The Scrapper" because he was having none of it. He was very feisty. My daughter disputes this account, but until my dying day I will swear that I determined to win Sidney over with The Love Treatment, and it worked. Within a week of serious cuddles and babying, his personality shifted, and the scrapper was tamed.
Mose was another story. Although he has always been really quick to purr, he is not a huge fan of cuddles--unless the cuddles are on his terms, or Vivian is the cuddler. She is his primary attachment, and he'll let her hold him like a baby. Most of the time, though, he is pursuing the YOLO lifestyle. While cats may have nine lives, Mose prefers to live as though he only has one. Each day we play outside with the boys for about an hour--they love to chase a cork attached to a stick by a long piece of twine--and we know it's time to bring them in when Mose a) climbs a tree, b) gets onto the roof, or c) leaps the fence in a single bound. Meanwhile, Sidney is chilling in a sunray. Poor Sid. He's like the kid in class who is kept from recess because some other kid was acting up.
Most of the time, though, the brothers like to hang out with each other and with us. They have several spurts of energy a day, and during those times anything can happen. Last night, Mose pulled a spider plant off of the mantle. At other times, they both climb under the covers and sleep against our legs. They're really friendly with guests--not at all skittish. In fact, they love to jump on people's heads and bite their hair. At 8 months old, Sidney has gotten really big, and Mose is smaller and slimmer. I think that Sid looks like a Shakespearean actor--someone who only plays the kings. Mose has superfine features and the softest fur ever. When you look at Mose in the sunlight and from the back forward, you can see that he has brown and black stripes, whereas Sidney is pretty much solid black. Both are excellent at leaping, running, and stalking.
We love these two dears. They were just what we needed.
I'm attaching a few photos!
1. Mose on left, Sidney on right
2. Sidney in Vivian's lap
3. Mose and Sidney forming a word bubble
4. Sidney on left, Mose on right.
Thank you for sharing your stories and sweet photos with us today, Tiffany! You guys are the best and we apprecate your devotion to your kitties so much.
More updates to come today -- so do stay tuned!
Pay very close attention to these cake pairs, now; I wouldn't want you to get the Wreck mixed up with the Inspiration Cake. [eye roll]
Elodie M. asked her baker to do this, only with far fewer rose petals. The baker obliged by providing this:
Ah, nothing symbolizes the beginning of a new life with the one you love quite like shriveled old rose petals. On the plus side, at least they distract the eye away from the poor cake construction. The weird grass sprigs sprouting haphazardly from the side and top help in that arena, too.
Next, Claire G. discovered the hard way how important "pipemanship" (as opposed to penmanship) is.
What she wanted:
What she got:
Such delicacy, such grace...
By the by, I don't monogram much, but I think the middle initial is supposed to be larger than the other two. I also think that if "msk" were a word, it would accurately describe the leveling job done on the leaning wonder here.
And lastly, Hannah W. asked for this, only with square tiers instead of round:
She even brought in the brown ribbon and fresh blue hydrangeas for the bakery to use. Pretty simple, right? Just make some white square tiers. But you know how some bakeries are, always complicating things...
Let's see. Misshapen layers, lumpy icing, no ribbon, electric teal icing "flowers"... What seems to be the problem, Hannah?
But that's the problem with all of this isn't it?
Sometimes they have meaning.
Sometimes they don't.
I was watching kids playing in a pool, it was a summer camp activity. I knew this because there were camp staff with them in the pool. I could easily identify them as camp staff because they all wore singlets with the words 'camp staff' on them.
Right in front of me I saw a bully standing under a devise that, when full, dumped a blast of water on whoever was below. He was centered directly under the dump bucket and was taking, to his delight, the full impact of the water. There were kids around him, pushed in close, who were taking the left over splash. The brave ones tried to get closer and the bully elbowed them hard and they moved back. This was his and he was keeping it.
This was seen.
I clocked three of the camp counselors notice this.
But nothing happened. They made no move. Two shook their head in disapproval, but that was the extent of their action.
But there was a boy, with a disability, who was in the pool, several feel away, who saw what I saw. A bully using force and entitlement to take from other kids the experience of a direct blast of fun. His elbows and his attitude were his weapons, his expectations of inaction by the staff was an integral part of his strategy for domination of that area of the pool. The kid with a disability saw all this.
He was accompanied by a staff. He got their attention and he pointed. It looked, from my viewpoint on the other side of the glass, that he didn't use words to communicate. He pointed, they saw and looked away, he pointed again, and they looked away again. He was getting frustrated and it showed.
"Tell the staff,""Tell someone in a position of authority" is one of the strategies we teach children, people with disabilities, and each other. It's a common sense strategy. If you see or experience bullying, or violence, or abuse, report it.
But bullies, and aggressors, and abusers, know that 'zero tolerance' often means 'zero acknowledgement' that people will simply 'not see' what they 'don't tolerate.'
That child, the one with the disability, was the one kid in the pool that did what needed to be done. He clearly took responsibility and because he did he SAW what was happening and he took action.
But that's where the action stopped.
Then, the whistle blew and the kids clamoured out of the pool.
I saw the bully standing, smiling from the fun he had. I'm not sure if that fun was the water bucket or the fact that he had it to himself.
Everyone else lost.
And he knew it.
Zero tolerance doesn't exist if there is zero determination and willful, purposeful, refusal to see what won't be tolerated.
And maybe we need a new strategy.
Maybe we should be promising something different, not 'zero tolerance for bullying' but 'zero tolerance for inaction' to the issue of bullying, abuse and social violence.
That's what I'd like to see.
That's what I'd like to experience.
That's what may make the world a little bit safer.
Date: August 16, 2017
In a fraction of a second, a camera shutter blinks, rendering the world, unchanging, in soft sepia tones. But the photographer herself was never still. Tina Modotti refused to be a silent observer behind her camera lens. After all, “I cannot solve the problem of life by losing myself in the problem of art,” she wrote.
Tina’s early photos were mostly abstract — but telephone wires, staircases, and flowers were subjects that turned her lens away from the “problems of life” she couldn’t ignore. She found a match for her political and cultural views in Mexico, and fell in with a group of avant-garde artists including the painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and the poet Pablo Neruda. Her photography switched focus to represent the everyday laborers and extraordinary folk art of Mexico City, which included documenting much of the Mexican mural movement.
Tina gave up her camera in 1931, devoting herself fully to political activism. Her body of work is relatively small, but represents how she lived her life: bold, and with conviction.
Happy 121st birthday, Tina.